Farmers warned Mississippi River could reach record level

Farmers warned of expected flooding from Mississippi River in coming days. Levee system in Mississippi in "good shape." River level at Greenville, Miss., forecast to hit 59 feet.  

Moving into May, farmers and hunting clubs on the river-side of the Mississippi River levee below Memphis are being warned of rising water levels and expected flooding.

Farther north, concerns about rising water levels are more immediate. On Monday, some southeast Missouri residents of Poplar Bluff were evacuated as flooding is imminent on the Black River.

In Greenville, Mississippi, a river level of 59 feet is currently predicted in coming days. It wouldn’t surprise Peter Nimrod, chief engineer for the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners, if that prediction is on the low side.

“The floods of 1973 are what everyone remembers,” said Nimrod on Monday. “At that point, in Greenville, the level hit 58.2 feet. So, it’s already forecast to be above the 1973 number. I think it’ll slide up on us.

“Of course, the levee is designed to withstand that and a lot more. The levee system is in good shape. We withstood the 2008 high water event” when the river reached 57.4 feet.

“Also, in the Mississippi Delta, we haven’t gotten the rainfalls” experienced this year in the Midwest. “The fronts there have been sitting on that region -- Missouri and Illinois – and dumping rain.”

Farther south, “we’re just dealing with all the rainfall coming down through the channel. We do have up to four inches of rain forecast for this area in the next couple of days. That’s above normal but isn’t potentially devastating like Hurricane Gustav dropping 12 inches in two days.”

Of course, the longer high water stays against the levee, “the more problems arise. Hopefully the coming forecasts – after Wednesday, really – will be in our favor.”

Nimrod and colleagues have “told everyone on the river-side that they need to get everything out. It could very possibly be a 100-year event. Most people are below the 100-year event level on the river-side. The few who have built above the 100-year event level are still really close.

“The good thing is folks in that situation have time to get their things moved out” of river-side barns and hunting clubs before the river crests in early May. Many “are already doing that, right now.”

During high water events, the Mississippi Levee Board “relies on information from folks watching the levee. If anyone notices seep water or anything going on with the levee, we always appreciate a call. We’ll go out and check it and make sure it won’t create a problem.

“Anytime the public sees something, please report it to their local levee boards. That’s a great help.”

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